The mayor responds to open letter

2013-06-27 00:00

FROM the onset, let me categorically pronounce that I, on behalf of the council, have been receptive of the uMngeni Residents/Ratepayers Association (URRA) and have not been evasive towards their requests. The many meetings we have held are an attestation to this.

Last month, we held a meeting attended by the municipal manager and URRA representatives on the same matter that I am today responding to. We once again gave URRA the assurance that the municipality was not hiding anything with regards to the state of its finances and there was nothing unbecoming about our Interim Finance Committee (IFC) as had been alluded to in our previous meetings.

URRA has access to our executive committee meetings and full council meetings where the minutes of the IFC form part of the discussions. The IFC is an important forum in the municipality which drives the oversight on all expenditures, ensures adherence to austerity measures, revenue collections and ensures that best practices in financial controls are achieved. This ensures that service delivery, our core function, is achieved with few hinderances.

The IFC, which was endorsed by all parties within the municipality and given the nod by KwaZulu-Natal Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC, Nomusa Dube, and endorsed by the provincial cabinet, is not the secretive monster the URRA attempts to portray it to be.

In our last meeting, we reiterated to the URRA that as we close the financial year, we will assess our financial performance in relation to whether or not there is a need to continue with the IFC. We will inform the MEC of the decisions derived from our assessments and the MEC will have the final say on the existence or discontinuation of the IFC. The report on the assessment will be completed by the end of June and it will be submitted to the MEC in July for her reply.

The information required by the URRA includes documents dating as far back as 2011. We have agreed to give the URRA the information. However, we agreed that our finance officials will be allowed to complete the compiling of the information the URRA requires. There was a deadline for this information to be provided and it will be made available once it is ready. Our officials have been instructed to compile this report speedily.

It is important to point out at this juncture that our finances are sound and the provincial government can attest to this. I admit without contradiction that the current council leadership inherited a municipality that had weak accounting systems control and skewed expenditure patterns, coupled with less than satisfactory revenue collection levels.

These and other challenges have been drastically improved. The revenue collection has increased to 70% and this is still far below our target. We want to achieve 100% collection in the coming months. We have systems in place to deal with the maintenance of infrastructure and we have upped the ante on fixing, among other things, potholes. The main road in Howick is being upgraded and on completion, projected for December, there will be additional lanes on either side of the main road. We have filled about 98% of our critical management posts with one or two still outstanding and the municipal manager has assured me that these vacant posts will be filled soon.

Our intergovernmental relations with uMgungundlovu District Municipality are sound and we ensure that service delivery is effected in its core functions of water and sanitation in our municipality. Residents and ratepayers, who are fully aware that the monitoring of Midmar and other streams that may be exposed to sewerage spillages within our jurisdiction are the responsibility of the uMgungundlovu District Municipality, alert us to any and every possible danger. uMgungundlovu is briefed timeously by our officials to address any concerns.

Therefore my role on this platform is to reassure uMngeni residents and ratepayers who may have been misled by deliberately mutilated facts. The municipal leadership and administration value contributions and suggestions from each and every resident within our jurisdiction.

We have an open-door policy to all residents who want to make a meaningful contribution without grandstanding.

As the mayor, it is one of my responsibilities as per the MFMA to ensure that we comply in the promotion of sound financial management practices, ensuring that our performance is measurable and that our budget talks to our service delivery needs.

The council, with the inclusion of the opposition parties, has not raised any concerns about the IFC in the municipality or in the public domain. This is not because the opposition is suddenly siding with the ANC on every decision, but it is a realisation that the IFC was a necessary and important vehicle for better financial management practices.

I do not think concerns will be solved by complaining to the media but by engaging us as a municipality lest a perception is created that the municipality is sidelining some members of the community.

• Mbali P. Myeni is the mayor of uMngeni Municipality.

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